Tag Archives: Salem

Exploring the Willamette Valley: Cascades Gateway Park

Cascades 6I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but ever since Nanowrimo my daily walk has disappeared. Talk about unhealthy! I’ve kept up on Tai Chi class twice a week but that’s not the same sort of exercise, even if it’s good for me. The trouble with winter in Oregon is it’s cold, rainy, and dark, and mostly makes me want to curl up on the couch with hot chocolate or tea, not go out walking. I’ve been unable to talk myself into my usual route at Minto-Brown Island, and so to get myself finally moving, I went this morning to Cascades Gateway Park instead. It has the virtue of being just down the road from my husband’s work, so it’s right there when dropping him off.

That’s about Cascades Gateway’s only virtue unless you count it having a fancy name. The park is a slice of marsh right next to the freeway that probably isn’t usable for anything else. It has a small river (for Oregon) and a pond. The picnic area is nice enough, if you want to listen to the freeway right next to you with only a concrete barrier between you and it. The park isn’t really set up for walking either, the only thing it’s really set up for is fishing. And it must either actually be a great place to fish or its the only place around here to fish, because even at 9 am on a cold foggy January morning there was half a dozen people out there fishing along the pond and more people showing up. When I’ve walked during the summer there’s a ton of people fishing.Cascades 2

The trails, if you can call them that, are either a few going off from the picnic area into the swampy bushes that dead end at various fishing spots along the river, or you can circle the lake. Neither are ideal. The ones at the picnic area are overgrown, so you’ll get wet bushes in your face and mud all over your shoes in the winter and spider webs and mosquito in the summer. That and you’ll have to double back after it dead ends. Usually I opt for the lake.

It’s a short circuit, twenty minutes if you take it slow, but despite being muddy, the lake itself is nice enough. It’s at least a slice of nature instead of walking right next to cars on a sidewalk. The trail is well defined in some places with even a little foot bridge, but then in others completely disappears, like when the park turns into a disc golf course. You just have to pick your way across it until the trail picks up again at the other end. There’s also a section where you either have to walk through the gravel parking lot or across some grass that belongs to all the ducks and geese, which is sort of a toss up which is better.

Cascades 4Despite all that, it’s not a bad walk. I’m making it sound terrible, but it really isn’t. The fresh air and the trees are nice. Right now flocks of Canadian geese are wintering there, which are sort of interesting to see up close, and the fishermen are always very friendly. The convenience of talking myself into getting there means I actually did it. The fog this morning made the park look almost magical, adding some mystery and making the freeway barrier less noticeable (although the noise of the cars was still quite loud). Still, I found some nice shots of nature if I was careful about how I took them.

And best of all, I got an incredible view of this big guy. I’ve never seen a heron so close before. That was enough to cheer me up and get my morning off to a great start. Maybe tomorrow I’ll actually manage to get myself to Minto or Waterfront for a more vigorous (and drier) walk.

Cascades 1

Willamette Valley: Riverfront Park

riverfrontAs I’ve been settling into Salem, I’ve been looking for a decent place to walk. After trying one near my husband’s work, I found it a bit marshy and muddy, since the path isn’t paved, or even well defined in places. So, I’ve switched and for the moment have settled on the popular, but reasonably nice Riverfront Park. It’s a busy park, one that usually has a large amount of people, but it also has nice paved paths along the Willamette river, which is good this time of year. Even better, since I last lived here, they’ve added a pedestrian/bike bridge over the Willamette that connects with Wallace Marine Park in West Salem. It’s the bridge that helps outweigh the popularity of the park, although I’ve yet to find a park that isn’t fairly busy when the weather is decent in Salem, even the muddy one (lost of people fish there).bridges

Three bridges cross the river in downtown Salem, two one way bridges on 22, that have a relatively unpleasant yet effective sidewalk, and this third bridge, which was up until a few years ago, a railroad bridge. Apparently when the rail line was no longer used, the city acquired it to make it into a hiking/biking trail. In my opinion, it’s the nicest of the bridges (although the arches in the pillars of the older highway bridge are pretty. The former railroad bridge used to lift, so it still has the towers that once controlled it, even if now it’s paved over with a nice wide path. There’s plenty of room to stop and gawk at the nice view of the river in either direction without worrying about getting in anyone’s way, as well as a couple of places made for viewing, which I assume were for people to get out of the way of the trains originally.

bridgeWallace Marine Park in west Salem has also been redone since I’ve last been in the area, with a further path going north along the river bank, with places to go out and down to the river. The Willamette is even looking slightly less disgusting in general (I haven’t seen any raw sewage in it lately) but I still would not swim in it unless it was a life or death situation. Still from up on the bridge or the safety of the bank, the river is pretty enough.

Apparently eventually they plan to build another bridge on the other side of the part connecting to Minto Island, which will be nice. I have yet to go try to walk there, because it’s a little further out of my way, but I vaguely recall it also had a number of paved paths, so I might try it out here and see if it’s less busy than Riverfront. I will look forward to when it’s connected though, even with increased traffic, because it’ll make it more convenient for me.river

At least I’m finally getting back into a daily walk. Always a good thing. Remember, sitting too much will kill you! And I have too many novels I want to write to let that happen.